With much drama and suspense, John Boehner was reelected as Speaker of the House today by the slimmest of margins. The entire focus of the vote was centered on the brewing conservative rebellion. Ultimately, only 12 Republicans either declined to vote or voted for someone other than Boehner (Garrett, Bachmann, and Blackburn initially declined to vote, but voted for Boehner upon the second call), just shy of the requisite number to force a second vote.
It takes enormous courage to publicly stand up and oppose the Speaker of your own party. It required even more courage for freshmen like Tom Massie, Ted Yoho, and Jim Bridenstine to vote against Boehner. The abstentions of Mick Mulvaney and Raul Labrador were particularly powerful and symbolic. When leadership tossed off a couple of conservatives from committee assignments, they pointed to the promotions of Mick Mulvaney and Raul Labrador (to the Financial Services and Judiciary Committees) as proof that there was no purge. It’s heartening to see that these guys did not take the bait and did not allow leadership to drive a wedge between conservatives.
We salute all those who had the courage to voice their opposition.
With that said, this is all a red herring. This was never about Boehner or those who would vote for him. There is no doubt that there are at least 30-35 solid conservatives who would have rather voted for someone else, if presented with a viable option. There is also no doubt that conservatives have nothing near a majority in the conference to elect a conservative Speaker. There is a systemic problem in the Republican Party. As Erick Erickson has pointed out, Cantor, McCarthy, and McMorris-Rodgers are probably worse than Boehner. Also, the entire structure of committee chairmen, leadership posts, and party spokesmen are filled with the ranks of those who don’t believe in conservatism, are incapable of articulating it, or too scared to pursue it. The majority of the conference stands with them.
Folks, this is a long game. The reality is that we can’t successfully shoot at the king until we assemble our own army, large enough to overpower the current system. This is a long process that will take several election cycles. If we want to change the entire face of leadership (not just the Speaker), we need to engage in the primaries, particularly in red states and districts, over the next 20 months. Only after we elect more people like Massie/Mulvaney/Bridenstine etc. will we have the leverage to turn our protest votes into viable alternatives.
The direction of the party will be determined by all of us who are actually frustrated with the status quo. If each one of us would channel our frustration into helping elect committed conservatives in the 120 or so most conservative districts, we will control the majority of the majority of the most consequential body of government. It doesn’t take much to knock off a vulnerable Republicans in a low-turnout midterm primary if all the activists in the district remain focused. Just ask Ted Yoho and Jim Bridenstine. Yet, there are still dozens of solid red districts represented by big government types.
For my part, I’ll be working on recruiting and highlighting conservatives here at Red State, the Madison Project and together with other conservative organizations. If you live in one of the many conservative districts represented by a pale pastel Republican, please email me at Daniel@madisonproject.com with your thoughts and ideas of organizing early and often for a viable alternative.
If we all work together on a consequential and attainable goal, we might be looking at a different election for Speaker on this day in 2015.